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  • scram switch
    [from the nuclear power industry] n. An emergency-power-off switch (see {Big Red Switch}), esp. one positioned to be easily hit by evacuating personnel. ... VIEW ENTIRE DEFINITION

  •  View Definition: byte 


    /bit/ [techspeak] n. A unit of memory or data equal to the amount used to represent one character; on modern architectures this is usually 8 bits, but may be 9 on 36-bit machines. Some older architectures used `byte' for quantities of 6 or 7 bits, and the PDP-10 supported `bytes' that were actually bitfields of 1 to 36 bits! These usages are now obsolete, and even 9-bit bytes have become rare in the general trend toward power-of-2 word sizes.

    Historical note The term originated in 1956 during the early design phase for the IBM Stretch computer; originally it was described as 1 to 6 bits (typical I/O equipment of the period used 6-bit chunks of information). The move to an 8-bit byte happened in late 1956, and this size was later adopted and promulgated as a standard by the System/360. The term `byte' was coined by mutating the word `bite' so it would not be accidentally misspelled as bit. See also nybble.